Hiking from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain (Appalachian Approach Trail)

Hiking from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain (Appalachian Approach Trail)

By Olivia Williams

A Hiker’s Tale – The Ultimate Guide to the Appalachian Approach Trail: From Waterfalls to Mountain Tops! Your go-to resource for insights, tips, and all you need to know for a successful journey.

Did you know that around 3 million people hike on the Appalachian trail each year? While millions of people hike on the Appalachian trail, only a few thousand attempt a thru-hike.
The Appalachian Trail starts in Springer Mountain, Georgia, and spans to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail is more than 2,000 miles long, and it has an elevation gain of climbing to Mount Everest 16 times.

Map of The Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine

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While the Appalachian Trail starts at Springer Mountain in Georgia, it is a remote starting location. The only way to get to Springer Mountain is to drive 30 minutes up a bumpy forest service road or hike the Appalachian Approach Trail.

While it may be faster to drive up the forest road, many section hikers and thru-hikers choose to start on the Approach Trail. The Appalachian Approach Trail starts at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia.

Do you want to learn more about hiking the Appalachian Approach Trail? If so, keep reading to learn everything you need to know!

Editor’s note: We ensure the accuracy of our guides through thorough fact-checking. The information in this guide reflects the most current details available as of Feb 2024.

Appalachian Approach Trail: Hike Overview

Miles: 8.8 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Starting Point: Amicalola Falls Visitor Center, Georgia
Ending Point: Springer Mountain, Georgia
Total Elevation Gain: 1,916 feet

Appalachian Approach Trail: A Hiker’s Tale from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain

Now that you know the basics of the Approach Trail, let’s get into more details!

Amicalola Falls State Park

The Appalachian Approach Trail starts at Amicalola Falls in Georgia. Amicalola Falls is the tallest waterfall in Georiga, and it is stunning at any point in the year.

To get on the Approach Trail, start by walking towards the visitor center. If you plan on doing a day hike, you can park your car outside the visitor center.

If you are going on a backpacking trip, be sure to tell the employees to get an overnight parking pass. The cost of an overnight parking pass is $5.

If you plan on doing a day hike to Springer Mountain, you will need to arrange to have a shuttle driver bring you back to your car. Because of the amount of AT thru-hikers that start on the Approach Trail, finding a shuttle shouldn’t be too hard.

Once you park your car, you can go into the visitor center and look around. In the visitor center, you will find an information desk, a small store, and an educational display with snakes and other critters.

The visitor center is the perfect place to stock up on any last-minute items you may need before your hike. Once you are done in the visitor center, head out the back door to start the Approach Trail.

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Hiking in Amicalola State Park

The Appalachian Approach Trail starts at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia

Image Credit: The Trek

You will see the famous Appalachian Approach Trail arch, which is the perfect place to stop and take pictures. Then, you can start your hike on the Approach Trail.

You will walk by the first shelter on the Approach Trail, the reflection pond, and then climb more than 600 steps to reach the top of Amicalola Falls.

Take your time climbing up the waterfall because it is exhausting. If you are doing an overnight trip, be sure to take plenty of breaks because your backpack will be heavy.

Once you reach the top of the waterfall, you will arrive at the Amicalola Lodge. This is the perfect place to stop and have lunch or spend the night.

The Approach Trail

After finishing the stairs up the waterfall and passing the lodge, you will officially be on the Appalachian Approach Trail. From this point, you will be a little over 7 miles away from Springer Mountain.

While the Approach Trail is mostly uphill, the hardest part is the stairs. You can celebrate knowing that you got the hardest part out of the way.

There isn’t much to see on the rest of the Approach Trail except for a few campsites and the site of an old plane crash. If you get tired before reaching Springer Mountain, Black Gap Shelter is a good place to stop.

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Reaching Springer Mountain

Once you reach Springer Mountain, congratulations! You completed the uphill 9-mile hike. At the top of Springer Mountain, you will notice two plaques signifying the start of the Appalachian Trail.

There is also a beautiful overlook, so it is a great spot to have a snack or eat lunch.

From Springer Mountain, you can head back down to Amicalola Falls, walk an extra mile to the closest parking lot and call for a shuttle, or continue on the Appalachian Trail.

If you choose to get picked up at the Springer Mountain parking lot, be sure to arrange a shuttle ahead of time.

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Camping on the Trail

Do you want to go on an overnight backpacking trip? If so, hiking the Approach Trail is a great idea. Whether you plan on just doing the Approach Trail or continuing on the Appalachian Trail, you are sure to have a blast.

Luckily, you can camp anywhere you want along the Approach Trail, but camping on top of Springer Mountain is discouraged.

The first camping opportunity on the Approach Trail is a shelter before you reach the base of the waterfall. This shelter is typically for thru-hikers only, so be sure to ask the visitor center before camping there.

The next best place to camp will be after the waterfall. You will notice several small campsites on the trail up to Springer Mountain.

At mile 7.3 on the Approach Trail, you will come across the Black Gap Shelter. This is the perfect place to camp if you are feeling tired from the hike.

If you want to set up camp after reaching Springer Mountain, the Springer Mountain Shelter is only .1 miles away from the top of Springer Mountain. Many travelers claim to have slept in that shelter when they did the Approach Trail, and they found it to be a great experience.

What to Pack

Are you wondering what you should pack for your Appalachian Approach Trail hike? If so, what you pack will depend on if you are going on a day hike or an overnight trip.

For a day hike, it is important to bring a small backpack, reusable water bottle, snacks, and a small first aid kit. 

If you are going on an overnight hike, there are a lot more items you will need. Even though there are shelters on the trail, it is still a good idea to bring a tent.

Here is what else you will need:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Backpack
  • Stove
  • Cookware
  • Portable charger
  • Water filter
  • Bear bag
  • Food

Be sure to do your research before packing for your first overnight trip.

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Are You Ready to Hike the Appalachian Approach Trail?

Whether you are looking for a beautiful hike, going on a backpacking trip, or starting your Appalachian Trail thru-hike, hiking the Appalachian Approach Trail is a fun experience.

Embarking on the Appalachian Approach Trail is not just a physical journey through picturesque landscapes but a profound adventure that beckons the spirit of every hiker. The scenic vistas, diverse ecosystems, and the sense of accomplishment at the end of this initial trail provide a compelling preview of the incredible odyssey awaiting enthusiasts.

So, lace up your boots, embrace the adventure, and let the Appalachian Approach Trail be your first step towards an extraordinary journey of self-discovery and natural marvels on the iconic Appalachian Trail.

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